Amazon's Alexa voice assistant works really well on its own, but you can greatly expand the assistant's capabilities by connecting it with the "If This Then That" (IFTTT) protocol. You'll be able to tell Alexa to perform a variety of tasks, ranging from the silly to the superbly useful, including everything from getting a notification when an astronaut reaches space to finding your lost phone.
To get started, all you need is a smartphone, the IFTTT app and an Alexa device. Read on for our Top Alexa/IFTTT recipes.
Connecting IFTTT with Alexa is not difficult, but it takes some patience. First, you may have to download apps and create accounts for Alexa, IFTTT, and whatever product or service you're going to be controlling, such as the Philips Hue lights. Then, go to the services page on IFTTT and click on Alexa.
Once you do, you'll see a ton of Alexa-specific applets. To get them to work, you'll have to link to your account info on those services. For example, there are lots of applets that require Google accounts, like Calendar and Google Drive. Just make a quick pass through the All Services page on IFTTT and activate the ones you think you're interested in. You'll need to "trigger" a good many of the Alexa applets by giving a specific command to your device. It's spelled out quite clearly on IFTTT or through the app.
This is one of the simplest applets, but it's extremely helpful and by far the most popular of all of the IFTTT/Alexa combos. All you need to do is give IFTTT permission, and then activate the applet with Alexa by saying, "Alexa, trigger Find My Phone." That's it. When you lose your phone, just tell Alexa to find the device, and Alexa will call your phone. Just follow the sound of the ring.
Alexa's shopping list function is handy: no pens, no paper and no forgetting the eggs. Now, thanks to IFTTT, you can get your shopping list emailed to you while you drive to the grocery store. To activate the applet in the IFTTT app, just ask Alexa, "What's on my shopping list?" and you'll get a handy list sent right to your Gmail account within seconds.
When Harmony introduced smart TV remotes, millions of sports-watching, PlayStation-playing and audio-component-stacking people celebrated. I was one of them, because these remotes allowed me to bundle different activities, such as turning on the TV, receiver and PS4, into a single button command. Harmony and Alexa have combined to skip the button and activate the activity with your voice. For example, say, "Alexa, trigger Watch TV," and your TV, receiver and cable box will turn on. Just give the necessary permissions in the IFTTT app, and you'll never have to put down that oversize burrito to watch the game again. Mind blown.
Nest brought the world the "learning" thermostat, trying to help families save money, the planet save energy and give remote control of the gadget. Now, with Alexa you can use your voice to preheat your home as you drive back to your igloo after flying home from the Caribbean. You can set this feature up in less time than it takes a plane to taxi to the gate; turn on the applet in IFTTT, give the appropriate permissions to Nest and tell Alexa to trigger it. The default command is, "Alexa, trigger nest to 72" (degrees Fahrenheit), but you can set the thermostat to an exact temperature by creating your own phrase.
This applet is still a bit raw, but if your head's too full of stuff to remember, then give the Google calendar applet a shot. Follow me here: Activate the applet in the IFTTT app on your smartphone, give the necessary permissions for Gmail, and then create a to-do list on Alexa. Each time you add something to that list, Alexa will send a Quick Add Event to your Google Calendar. The key here is Quick Add, which means the applet won't set a date or time for the to-do; it will instead create an event right now, and you'll then have to go in and edit the specifics later. It's not perfect, but at least you get some kind of event in your calendar before you forget.
It may not cure sickness or make you more efficient at your job, but this clever little applet is fun. If the Saturday night book club you host spontaneously turns into a fiesta, just turn on this applet and say, "Alexa, trigger party time." Your Philips Hue colored lights will automatically go into a color loop. What happens after the party lights go on is up to you.